Vail plays host to the 2022 Mountain Travel Symposium starting Sunday
Event is combination of business, education
The Mountain Travel Symposium is a kind of combination of family reunion, speed dating, trade show and summer school. The event returns to Vail starting Sunday.
The annual symposium rotates between resorts, but hasn’t met in person since 2019. Vail was in the rotation for 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic intervened, so Vail slid into the 2022 spot.
Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar has long been involved with the symposium in one way or another. Vlaar said she’s looking forward to the educational sessions, in part because Vail gets a chance to tell the world about its efforts in sustainability and stewardship.
Vlaar said Vail Mayor Kim Langmaid will speak about resort sustainability practices and the town’s still-developing “Destination Stewardship” project. There will also be a panel discussion about how resorts are adapting to the need to balance sustainability with a robust economy.
Mountain Travel Symposium Content Director Catherine Shaw said other sessions will focus on other travel trends. The pandemic changed a lot about the travel industry.
Shaw added there will also be workshops on “diversity, equity and inclusion” and the role that now plays in the resort economy.
Then there are the trade exchanges, held this year at Dobson Ice Arena. One such exchange will match travel wholesalers with lodging and travel suppliers — lodges, resorts and airlines. Another session matches travel buyers with suppliers.
While the sessions focus on groups, Vlaar said the exchanges also put together packages that can be offered to individual travelers.
Vail Chamber & Business Association Executive Director Alison Wadey said the symposium returning to Vail is a big deal, for a couple of reasons.
There’s the chance to show Vail to the industry, of course.
“But we haven’t had a group like this in over two years,” Wadey said. Group business is a key part of the Vail Valley’s business, especially in the shoulder seasons and mid-week periods in busy times. That business hasn’t returned with the vigor of individual travel, but Wadey said that’s changing.
“The appetite for groups to travel is back, big-time,” she said.
The symposium will also slightly overlap with this year’s Taste of Vail events.
“We’re going to get a nice little week (of business),” she said. That will be nice because the last week of March was “very slow,” Wadey added.
The Vail-based business group is also working to lure participants to town businesses during their free time. Wadey said the town of Vail has put together a “business passport,” in which a symposium participant can get stamps for every business visited. Those who turn in a full card will receive gift certificates redeemable on future visits.
“It’s kind of a perfect storm of opportunity,” Vail Valley Partnership President and CEO Chris Romer said. Between the resort itself and Vail’s efforts on sustainability and stewardship, Romer said this is an opportunity to reinforce Vail’s position as an industry leader.
Shaw said the symposium team is eager to return to Vail.
“Our team did a site visit in September (of 2021),” Shaw said. “We’re really looking forward to coming.”
The symposium is set for April 3-8 in Vail.
This is the first in-person Mountain Travel Symposium since 2019.
About 800 people are expected. Attendees include travel and resort representatives and vendors
The event is split between Dobson Ice Arena and The Hythe hotel.